Performing arts library’s future is in the balance
A CONSULTATION has been launched to help decide the fate of Surrey Performing Arts Library in a bid by the council to make savings.
The library, based at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking, houses a collection of music, theatre, orchestral and dance materials for public loan.
Surrey County Council has put forward three options for the survey, which opened on September 4 and has been extended to close on October 1, absorbing the collections into Surrey’s other libraries, transferring ownership of the library to another organisation or closing the service.
The Liberal Democrats have launched a petition to save the library and Leith Hill Music Festival (LHMF) has called on the council to rethink its approach.
A county council spokesman said: “Two options in this consultation would see the performing arts library stock remain available to local people and groups.
“With the stock housed in an existing library or managed by a community organisation rather than, as currently, in a separate location we would hope to save nearly £200,000 a year for the Surrey taxpayer.
“Many users are now choosing not to visit the library, instead viewing items electronically from their local library and then collecting them from there.”
“We know this is a service that is valued greatly by those who use it and whatever option is finally chosen we will do everything possible to make sure collections are kept together.
“As a council, we are faced with having to find more than £100m of savings this year alone, given the huge financial pressures resulting from reducing government grant and rising demand for services such as children’s services and adult social care.”
Graham Aslet, LHMF chairman, said: “While LHMF understands the demand for savings, we are sad that Surrey County Council is considering a rich and indispensable public service like the Performing Arts Library, which costs so little when compared to the council’s overall budget, as a means for savings.
“The library contributes immeasurably to the cultural life of the area and beyond, by helping to knit social involvement through music, drama and other arts, thereby keeping many in the community, especially elderly residents, active, mobile and thus in good health.”
Cllr David Goodwin, Liberal Democrat spokesperson on communities, said: “This service must be retained for the benefit of all Surrey residents. There has been little or no scrutiny of this proposal by county councillors and a two week consultation period is totally inadequate.
“These plans should be fully examined by all county councillors in Surrey before any decisions are made. To lose such a specialist service alongside many dedicated and knowledgeable staff would be an act of great folly, and we will oppose it.”
The library holds a specialist collection and permanent display covering the life and works of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), commemorating his strong links with the area where he lived and where he composed some of his most important pieces.
The council’s consultation document can be accessed via www.surreycc.gov.uk/ shapingspal